ISLAMABAD, Sep 27 (Reuters) Pakistan's military president, Pervez Musharraf today registered to run in an October 6 presidential election as the Supreme Court prepared to rule on whether his bid for power is legal.
Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz and other government leaders filed Musharraf's nomination at the Election Commission, across an avenue from the Supreme Court which is due to rule by Friday on challenges to the army chief's bid for another term.
Pakistan faces months of uncertainty as Musharraf tries to keep control of a nuclear-armed country whose support for the United States is seen as crucial to the success of Western efforts to stabilise Afghanistan and battle al Qaeda.
''It's a historic day for Pakistan,'' Aziz told reporters at the Election Commission.
''President Pervez Musharraf is the candidate of the Pakistan Muslim League (PML) and its allies and we are fully confident that he will succeed and this will be very important for Pakistan and the region,'' he said.
Security was tight in central Islamabad with a ring of police monitoring traffic passing through checkpoints and riot police standing by. Police were on guard outside the Supreme Court and in its compound.
The court is hearing petitions challenging Musharraf's right to retain the posts of president and army chief, the legality of being elected in uniform, and whether he can get a mandate from outgoing assemblies.
''IN UNIFORM'' An electoral college made up of members of the National Assembly, Senate and provincial assemblies will vote for a president before the assemblies are dissolved for a general election due by mid-January.
''We will elect him while in uniform. It's being done in line with the law and the constitution,'' Chaudhry Pervez Elahi, a senior leader of Musharraf's ruling PML and chief minister of Punjab province told reporters.
If the court blocks Musharraf's re-election, analysts say he might impose emergency rule, or dissolve parliament and seek a mandate as a civilian from the assemblies emerging from the general election.
Musharraf, whose main source of power is the military, has said he would quit the army after winning another term.
He has held both posts thanks to a constitutional clause incorporated in 2004 but his presidential term ends on Nov 15 and he is due to give up his army post by the end of the year.
Two other candidates are expected to register for the presidential election - a former Supreme Court judge who refused to swear allegiance to Musharraf after his 1999 coup, and a senior member of the opposition Pakistan People's Party of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto.
Musharraf and Bhutto have been holding talks on a power-sharing pact but have yet to reach an agreement.
An alliance of opposition parties led by the party of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif is demanding an end to military involvement in politics and the restoration of full democracy, and has vowed to boycott the election.
A boycott would not derail the vote - Musharraf only needs a majority of votes cast and his PML holds a majority in parliament - but it would detract from its credibility.
REUTERS ARB PM1110